When you’re running things, you are held responsible for the decisions of your team, even if you never worked directly with them, and they messed up on their own time. Such is the way of things, especially in the Internet Age. Couple that truism with the fact that prevailing perception quickly becomes reality, and people can’t seem to control themselves on social media… and management has some difficult roads ahead.
You may find yourself in the uncomfortable position of having to deal with something that someone on your team may have said or done online – this year or the past decade – that is suddenly headline news … whether it deserves to be or not. Take, for example, the case of PewDiePie, the latest victim of social media assisted career suicide.
Felix Kjellberg, better known to his legion of YouTube fans as “PewDiePie,” recently lost out on a lucrative contract with Disney after an article in the Wall Street Journal outed some objectionable content in his videos.
Felix has a reputation for being profane, in your face and pushing boundaries, but there are some boundaries that should never be pushed in popular culture. PerDiePie was born as a promoter of instructional videos on how to play and win various video games. He built a huge following and then transitioned into other content, including prank videos and commentary aimed at his 50 million YouTube subscribers.
That popularity led to what WSJ called a “multimillion-dollar” contract with Walt Disney Company. Then Felix went and did something that most folks would call, well… dumb. He started posting videos with Nazi propaganda and anti-Semitic jokes. When someone at WSJ saw this, they contacted Disney directly, who promptly cut ties with PewDiePie.
In one of the more infamous videos, Felix pays two guys to dance beneath a sign that says “Death to all Jews” … yes, really. After they follow through with the request, a somewhat surprised Kjellberg, says, “I’m sorry. I didn’t think they would actually do it. I feel partly responsible. … I mean, I gotta give them five stars for an outstanding experience, because at least they did what I asked…”
Hey, Felix? When you pay someone to do something, and they do it, you’re not “partly responsible” … you’re fully responsible. But so are the people who make your fame possible. And, in this case, that happened to be Disney. So, of course, they “cut ties immediately.” Management wasn’t really given much of a choice.
This should not be news to anyone, but especially a personality who’s on the Internet every day of the world. When people do things like this, major companies must cut ties. The consequences they face are much more dire than angry people in a comment thread. If management has to choose between one star and a nationwide boycott, it’s a fairly simple decision.